Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City overland

This article is an itinerary.

This is a suggested itinerary for a trip from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City, in Southeast Asia.

Understand

This itinerary takes you both through the core of former French Indochina, and through the fields of the Vietnam War.

Cambodia and Vietnam gained final independence from French rule in 1954. You will even today find many signs of French influence. The Cold War shaped Cambodian history from 1954 onwards. In 1970, General Lon Nol, with backing from the United States, overthrew Prince Sihanouk's Beijing-backed government. Civil war broke out between 1970-1975. The Khmer Rouge won the civil war in 1975 and seized control of Phnom Penh. Saloth Sar (known in the West as Pol Pot) killed between 500,000 and 2 million countrymen between 1975-1979, estimates vary. While most died of starvation, thousands were also killed in concentration camps and outright genocide. Both the "killing fields" and the Tuol Sleng interrogation center have today been converted into museums and are must-sees for any visitor to Phnom Penh. Despite the tragedy of modern Cambodian history, the country is today a vibrant and exciting country, full of history, architecture and monuments, at the core of Southeast Asia.

Prepare

Visas for Vietnam need to be arranged in advance. You can obtain one from the Vietnamese embassies in Bangkok or Phnom Penh, or a Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country. Allow two-four days for processing in Bangkok, and a fee of US $45–60. For Cambodia, a 30-day tourist visa is available at most border crossings; the official price is US $20, but it usually costs more (e.g., 1,000 baht).

US dollars are the preferred currency in Cambodia, and are easy to get in Cambodia, but less so in Vietnam. Thai baht will also usually be accepted, or at least exchanged, but buy US $ in Bangkok if you can. Cambodian ATMs (dispensing US dollars) are currently available in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and on the beach in Sihanoukville. The ATM network is steadily growing. ATMs are widespread across Vietnam including in (Chau Doc, Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City). There is generally a maximum withdrawal of 2,000,000 dong (US $107,Mar 2010), sometimes less. The ANZ Bank branches in HCMC recently increased their limit to 9,900,000 dong.

Get in

Bangkok to Siem Reap

Time: From 9–14 hours, depending on the season

Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Time: 4–9 hours

You have two options; road or boat. Which is more comfortable depends on the state of the road. When good, buses are excellent and fast, and boats deteriorate from lack of custom. When bad, boats become the preferred option. The road is steadily gaining the upper hand in terms of convenience, but taking the boat gives you the opportunity to travel across Southeast Asia's largest inland lake, the Tonle Sap, and see the people living around and (literally) on the lake.

Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City

Time: 6–8 hours

Highlights

Do

Siem Reap

Phnom Penh

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

See

Stay safe

While generally safe, particularly Cambodia can be an exhausting country in which to travel. Because of the widespread and extreme poverty, foreigners may sometimes feel as if they were walking cash points. Simply leaving your hotel and walking down the street is likely to attract a mixed crowd of cyclo drivers, postcard sellers, water and ice-cream merchants and anyone else out to get their hands on a dollar. Learn to say "no" (or "ot tay" in the Khmer language) and remain polite, but determined.

Go next

One option to carefully consider for this itinerary is to book your tickets inbound to Bangkok, but outbound from Ho Chi Minh City. Alternatively, you will probably want to fly back to Bangkok rather than backtrack your journey through Cambodia. Ho Chi Minh City is well connected, however you are well advised to book and buy your tickets before arrival as local air fare prices are very steep.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, September 21, 2014. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.